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London Breed to run for SF mayor, but her post as acting mayor remains uncertain

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Acting Mayor London Breed announces her plan to run for mayor to reporters on Friday. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco Acting Mayor London Breed, who also serves as president of the Board of Supervisors, announced her plan Friday to run for The City’s top elected office in June.

But a more pressing decision before the board as early as this month could play a significant role in the success of her bid.

Breed became acting mayor Dec. 12, 2017, following the unexpected death of Mayor Ed Lee, which has led to an unforeseen June 5 mayoral election ahead of the scheduled November 2019 mayor’s race.

Her announcement comes five days before the deadline to file and as other well-known politicians have already indicated a run for the most powerful elected office in San Francisco.

Breed said she wanted to run to ensure more people have the opportunity she has had in San Francisco, “coming from a situation of poverty and doing well in life.” She spoke of “a new vision for San Francisco.”

Announcing her candidacy puts the Board of Supervisors in a challenging position, one that has remained at the forefront of political discussion at City Hall ever since Breed, per the city charter, took the acting role of mayor.

Board members will have to decide whether to vote to name Breed as the interim mayor — which would give her a significant advantage to win the June contest — or appoint somebody else in the post. No action means she will continue to serve in both posts until Election Day, which has raised concerns about compromising the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.

The board has yet to schedule a vote on interim mayor. The San Francisco Examiner previously reported the board may hold a special meeting as early as Jan. 16 to vote, but Breed on Friday would not discuss scheduling a vote, something the board president has the power to do.

“I want my colleagues to do what they think is best. I have had these conversations with members of the board. Many are torn on what they want to do. I support whatever decision they decide,” Breed said.

It would take six votes on the board to appoint an interim mayor and board members cannot vote for themselves. With Breed, a more moderate supervisor, unable to vote for herself, the board is evenly split 5-to-5 with the progressive and moderate blocs. Inaction means Breed would continue to serve in the dual roles.

The more moderate Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who is running for the District 8 election in June, said Friday he was “very open” to supporting Breed for interim mayor, even though she will also run for the seat.

“I don’t think just because somebody files that disqualifies them from being mayor,” Sheehy said. “It would be hard to convince me to go for a ‘caretaker’ mayor. I honestly don’t see a rationale for a ‘caretaker.’”

He added, “I think that being mayor in San Francisco is a hard job. You grab that tiger by the tail, it could just as easily bite you as carry you across the finish line.”

Sheehy said he was disinclined to vote against Breed as an interim mayor. “The threshold is pretty high for change for me. The responsible thing would be to not have both roles. But if we can’t get six votes to do something different it’s not Mayor Breed’s fault.”

Supervisor Mark Farrell said he remained open to all options.

Breed told the Examiner she had no issue with remaining in both roles. “I feel I’ve done a great job over the past month,” Breed said. She added, “There’s always going to be critics. I am fine with serving in dual roles, if it comes to that.”

She said she hasn’t thought about supporting a “caretaker” mayor, someone who wouldn’t run in June but who would serve in the role until the June election.

Breed made her announcement late Friday morning at a news conference related to the Public Works Fix-It neighborhood cleanup team in the Outer Sunset, and later took out papers to run at the Elections Department at City Hall.

“I am ready now more than ever to roll up my sleeves and continue to do the work for The City as acting mayor and also get out here and demonstrate to members of the public that I can do this job, I am the best person for this job,” Breed said.

The deadline for candidates to file to run for mayor is Jan. 9 at 5 p.m. Former Supervisor Angela Alioto filed to run for mayor this week. Other big-name candidates who have begun the process to run include former state Sen. Mark Leno, Supervisor Jane Kim and City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Breed declined to throw barbs at her potential opponents: “These are people that I have good working relationships with. And I want it to continue that way. May the best woman win.”

Breed is viewed as a more moderate politician, but has sided with progressives on several issues such as supporting the Mission moratorium, a 60-day cap on Airbnb rentals and taking a hard stance on police reform. The former two proposals, however, failed.

Some of San Francisco’s most politically influential figures have already thrown their support behind Breed, seeing her as someone who can carry on the similar political policies as Lee, who they also supported.

They include former Mayor Willie Brown, who takes credit for helping Lee become mayor, and Ron Conway, the Silicon Valley angel investor who has contributed handsomely to candidates and ballot measures he supports.

When asked to respond to Conway’s support, Breed, after taking out papers beginning the process to run for mayor Friday, said his money won’t influence her decision-making.

“Ron Conway, along with so many other people, they are San Franciscans. I am here to represent all San Franciscans. I am not here to put one San Franciscan against another. My job is to represent the poor just as hard as I am representing the wealthy people in this city,” Breed said. “Everyone deserves to have a mayor that is fair, that doesn’t try and divide people. A mayor that cares about all residents and all issues and who is going to be fair and equitable in any decisions that get made.”

She added, “I have always been my own person despite what people have tried to say about how I make decisions. Politics as usual is going to continue to try to pigeonhole people like me into a category as if I have to answer to some particular person.”

Breed grew up in public housing in the Western Addition, graduated from University of California, Davis, served on the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency Commission when Brown was mayor, and ran the nonprofit African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition.

Her first elected post came in 2012 when she won the District 5 supervisor race, beating out Lee-appointed and Brown-backed candidate Christina Olague.

Breed quickly gained political power when her colleagues in 2015 voted for her to serve a two-year term as board president. In 2017, the board voted once again to have her serve as board president.

She was re-elected to the District 5 seat in November 2016 for a four-term that ends in January in 2021.

“I’m, of course, sad by the death of Mayor Ed Lee,” Breed said. “I also know that he would want me probably to step to the plate, jump in and do what’s necessary to take care of The City.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information.

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